Mostly made of water

Minutes from the Hemlock and Canadice Lakes State Forest meeting, March 2013

There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea. - Herman Melville

March 14, 2013 - Springwater, NY: Just south of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes a meeting was held some months ago regarding the draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the new Hemlock and Canadice State Forest as presented by the new caretakers, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) of New York State(NYS). In the typical fashion, we like to take our leisurely time in reporting back on such crucial events. However, in our humble opinion by no means is the information herein contained within this document ashes down the memory hole of time. The discourse presented and comments made on that cold March evening will be relevant for many years to come, especially since UMP review is every ten years – although we don't pretend to have any faith in that society anyways.

First, some back background information. Hemlock and Canadice Lakes are two of the western most Finger Lakes in Upstate, New – about a 30 minute drive south of Rochester. Some of the earliest records show that the area was inhabited by the Seneca Nation. In 1779, during the American Revolutionary War, George Washington ordered a General Sullivan to lead a scorched earth policy, burning and pillaging the four nations of the Iroquois who had allied with the British. After the war, large tracts of land throughout the Finger Lakes were divided up as gifts for military service. In the later years, the area of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes developed around logging and then as a cottage and vacation location for the wealthy of Rochester. In 1876, the two lakes became the public water supply for the City of Rochester and by the 1900s, almost all of the cottages and structures around the lakes had been reclaimed through the process of Eminent Domain. In 2010, NYS bought the two lakes and surrounding area from the City of Rochester for $13.7 million. Three years later, NYS is finally completing it's management plan – of which, these minutes regard.

The meeting held in the Canadice Town Hall / Fire Department building was standing room only, as the public interest in the UMP seemed to be overwhelming. Many residents of the neighboring and surrounding towns were present, along with others from the City of Rochester and beyond. Especially evident was the heavy police presence of State Forest Rangers and other government officials. The meeting began with the DEC giving a brief 30 minute presentation of their 240+ page UMP document, touching on certain aspects. Of note, there were no actual official government note takers or stenographers present. It seemed like all public comments made after the initial DEC presentation were already being disregarded and passed over as noted by a few speakers. This is not to say recordings don't exist - multiple media outlets were present, and it's presumed that an unannounced official unofficial audio/video for authority purposes was also created [although, maybe not]– just nothing “officially” recorded other than notes.

Overall, a few overriding sentiments were expressed more frequently by the public that evening. 1.) A lack of faith and distrust in the government proceedings past and future and their ability to be a responsible caretaker of the new State Forest. 2.) A lack of community participation in the creation of the UMP, while it was pointed out that a few select community members, mostly local politicians - it seemed were specifically asked for input, outside of the general comment, which brings to question the weight of some comments vs. others.

A main concern addressed in many of the comments was the classification of the area. Currently, in the draft plan there is no special categorization of the area other than that of a “State Forest”, however many seemed to be in favour of adding more stringent categories such as “unique area” and “special management unit”. The further classification would ensure strict guidelines against development and other unwanted businesses. Of special importance to many in attendance was the issue of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Currently, there is no specific language in the draft that prohibits fracking, drilling, or resource mining – although the DEC has publicly stated their opposition to such ideas in the State Forest. Complicating the situation though, is the fact that they have yet to guarantee it in writing. It was also brought up that currently companies are able to take water from the tap for use fracking in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and writing should be put in place to prevent such use.

Another important point was that of the timber harvest. Previously, it was reported publicly that along the west side of Hemlock Lake there was an impressive track of old growth forest. Since then, it has been argued that the track is not an actual old growth forest. A lot of money could be made if parts of the State Forest were sent to the mill and a few commentators voiced concern with the lack of information regarding logging in the UMP, and ideas around this such as preventing any logging in the area and leaving it “forever wild”. (Sidenote: Hemlock is named after the Hemlock conifer tree because it was so prevalent for logging in the area.)

Hemlock and Canadice Lake have existing regulations against swimming anywhere and only allow boats under 17 feet with a max of a 10 horse power motor limited to certain areas. Although the regulation for unpowered boats, such as canoes and kayaks will likely increase to 21/22 feet due to the popularity of these lengths. It has kept the place pretty tidy, however one commentator suggested to “prepare for climate refugees” - in reference to the vast sources of water found in Upstate, New York versus the rest of the USA and world. A representative from the Sierra Club suggested that the no swimming regulation continue along with enforcing a policy of no motors. On the other end, it was pointed out that there is a state-of-the-art water filtration plant built in 1993, processing all the public water, filtering anything that swimmers may bring along. During the 1970s and before swimming was allowed in the lakes. Although, allowing public swimming does bring with it other things.

One area mentioned in the UMP, but not mentioned in the meeting is the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plan allows for people with needs to have keys to the gates at the north-end boat launch on Hemlock Lake, allowing them to drive down the road in a vehicle. From reviewing prior comments made in the lead up to the draft, numerous voices wrote in support of allowing hunters with special needs to access the area over all-terrain vehicles as well. In practice, this could be a real breaking point, as the use of powered-vehicles in the State Forest would be troublesome to many, even if helping to make the area more accessible.

Some other things that are of importance, that were not mentioned during the meeting are the “ghost town” of Jacksonville, the areas of County Line Falls and Reynolds Gully, bicycles, and the Monroe County Water Authority. Jacksonville has a historic place marker as being one of the earlier towns in the area, and afterwards because of the railroad in Livonia, it was deserted. Part of it was previously owned and still owned(?) by the City of Rochester, with the other areas private. The UMP didn't mention what may happen here, if anything, as the presumption is business as usual. Reynolds Gully can be found at the south end of Hemlock Lake and runs into it. The public property runs up to a quick point, and the main parts of the gully beyond it have clearly(obnoxiously) been marked private. Funny enough, in their public presentation the DEC supplied a picture of the gully that actually appears to be on private property. On another note, some mountain bikers had previously inquired about the creation of off-road trails throughout the area that went unanswered. And finally, the Monroe County Water Authority, who have been publicly criticized, for many reasons, but mostly for consisting only of conservatives and republicans, who enjoy higher than usual salaries.



Keeping upstate New York waterways and lakes clean.

We must push the governor on a decision against fracking soon, very soon.  We cannot lose out beautiful lakes and waterways in upper New York State.  Without them we will surely become a wasteland and all the money we think will be generated by fracking will not fix it.  Those who make the big bugs from fracking will find greener pastures to vacation and play in and we will be left to mourn our loss.


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